1000 Men Paid To Watch Me Bathe

woman shower

 

Read my story before it happens to you—

“Are you sure this is the right apartment?” I asked the realtor after she’d told me the rent. “I mean, that sounds so low for such a great place.”

She watched me take in the high ceilings, the beveled glass windows, and the rich, polished, wood floors. “The owner wants a renter who’ll stay forever,” she joked, nodding at me. “He wants someone who works steadily and will take good care of the place.”

“Well, I’d sure do that.” I ran my hand over the marble mantel above the fireplace. “Does the owner live here?”

“Yes. He’s up in the attic room, which he’s converted into living quarters. Mr. Sweeney travels extensively and is hardly ever at home. That’s why he’s concerned about getting a good renter in. There are currently two other women living in the apartment on the first floor. They’ve been here for several years. If you have any questions, I can refer you to them.”

I smiled at the tall, thin woman. “No, that’s fine. If my application is accepted, then I guess I’ll take the place.”

My heart jumped at those words. Finally, I was going to be on my own—in a beautiful, second-floor apartment in a rambling, old, beautifully preserved Victorian house. I handed the realtor a check. “I think this takes care of the deposit and the first month’s rent.”

The realtor took it out of my hand, smiling broadly. “Yasmin, I know you’re going to like it here. Mr. Sweeney will be getting in touch with you.”

The realtor left, but I stayed behind. I wanted to take in the atmosphere of my first apartment. Growing up, I’d lived with my grandmother, who’d died right after I’d started college. With what little money she’d left me, I’d been able to live in the dorms. But I’d hated the closeness, the constant noise, the feeling of never having a space of my own. So when I’d graduated and gotten a job, I knew I wanted a special place to call my own, to call home.

Luckily, I’d found it through a friend-of-a-friend type of deal. I’d contacted the realtor, and the rest is history. I loved the apartment from the first time I laid eyes on it. How many times had I said a silent prayer that I’d be accepted as a tenant? Too many to remember.

I strolled through the living room, glancing out the windows that faced the street. Elm trees lined the sidewalks. From my bedroom, I could see the park . . . just barely. But it was heaven to me.

Writing on a ringed pad, I took notes on what I’d need. The kitchen was small, but very modern. The refrigerator had a glass door that reflected the gleam of the built-in range and oven. The whole place smelled of cedar and mint. Gazing up at the high ceiling, I was disappointed to see the modern, jet-black lighting fixtures instead of stained glass ones. Oh, well. You couldn’t have everything.

The back door led out onto a small porch with steps that spiraled down to the backyard. No wonder I’d smelled fresh mint; the whole yard was full of it. A bench and table were nestled in the middle of the yard, a perfect place for an evening meal.

Looking up, I saw the top of Mr. Sweeney’s balcony, which overhung my little porch. There were no steps leading up to the third floor, which was fine. I had my privacy, and he had his.

I jotted down several items I’d need, and then walked once more through the apartment. At the front door, I gave it one more glance. So perfect, so wonderful . . . so cheap. I’d really lucked out this time.

Moving day came two days later. I didn’t have much stuff, but I splurged on buying a new couch, bed, and dinette set. I had a few things that had belonged to Grandma holed up in a storage bin; I’d get them later, after I’d found space for them.

I was taking a break when the doorbell buzzed. Hopping over packing boxes, I hurried to the door. Standing there were two women my age, smiles on their faces.

“Welcome to the building!” the taller of the two said, handing me a steaming-hot pizza box. “I’m Dena from down below, and this is my sister, Missy.”

Missy smiled shyly, handing me a six-pack of beer. “We—uh—wanted to make sure you eat tonight.” Blushing through her pretty freckles, she bowed her head in embarrassment. “I mean—because you’re moving in, and all.”

I smiled, glad to have the company. “Please—come on in,” I said, taking the beer from her hand. “Excuse the mess; I’m still just settling in.” I balanced the pizza box on my arm. “And thanks for the food. Why don’t you gals join me?”

Dena pushed Missy into the apartment. They sat down on the couch together, making themselves at home. “We wondered who’d rented this apartment.” Dena eyed the room suspiciously, looking up at the ceiling, checking out the walls. “The last tenant wasn’t happy here.”

“Oh. No?” I handed each of them a beer while I got plates for the pizza. “How come?”

“Tiffany felt—”

Dena furrowed her brow at Missy. “Uh, Tiffany was a little . . . strange. She had panic attacks. She was sure someone was constantly spying on her.” She popped her beer open and took a sip. “Anyway, it’s nice to have another woman here again.”

I handed them each a paper plate, opened the pizza box and set it down on the coffee table in front of them and waited for them to help themselves. “No men tried to rent here?” I asked.

Missy shook her head. “Mr. Sweeney is very specific. Women only. He believes that men create problems for an apartment owner.”

Dena pulled a slice of pizza free from the steaming pie and plopped it onto her paper plate. “Yeah, he’s a funny guy. Keeps to himself and doesn’t bother his renters.”

I sipped my beer. “I suppose that’s better than having your landlord breathing down your neck every second.”

Missy laughed. “That’s right. And that’s why we were so surprised when Tiffany moved out.”

Dena locked eyes with Missy in warning. “Miss gets so dramatic,” she said, smiling wanly at me. “Tiffany was her worst enemy. She was under psychiatric care and paranoia ruled her life. She was always afraid of something.”

Missy fidgeted. “Dena, you should tell her why Tiff was so upset.”

Dena bristled. “We don’t want to rehash old rumors,” she said, glaring at her sister. “The woman was mentally ill.”

“No, she wasn’t,” Missy countered. “She thought someone was spying on her in the apartment.” Missy crossed her arms over her chest, her brows knitting together.

Dena shook her head. “Missy always sticks up for anyone who has fantasies. “Tiffany just imagined things. Nothing more.”

“What kinds of things?”

“Oh, that she was being watched. She put up heavy drapes to cover the windows. Even in the shower, she felt like eyes were watching her. How crazy is that?”

I agreed with Dena: It was a little nuts. “How long did she live here?”

“About six months,” Missy said. “Then another girl moved in, but only for a week. Said the place gave her the creeps. She ended up moving out, too.”

“She only moved out because you filled her head with crazy ideas about the place being haunted,” Dena snapped derisively.

Is it haunted?” I asked.

Dena rolled her eyes; Missy’s grew wide. “Yes; I believe it is. I asked Hunter to bring in a psychic and have the building cleansed, but he ignored me.”

“Gee. I wonder why?’ Dena quipped, rolling her eyes again. “Maybe it’s because he thinks you’re batty?”

“Well,” I replied, hoping to mellow the topic, “I plan on staying here as long as I can.”

They both smiled. “We certainly hope so.”

“Let’s eat,” I said, desperately wanting to change the morbid topic of conversation.

Later that evening, I curled up on the couch, tossing about the information I’d culled from the two women who lived below me. No men allowed in the apartment building? It seemed rather odd to me, but times were crazy, and I figured that whatever Hunter Sweeney decided undoubtedly had to do with his concern for the safety of his renters.

Being spied on? That really seemed farfetched. Granted, I’d been in plenty of buildings with security cameras, and I’d always been aware of them. But this rambling, old Victorian had nothing like those security devices. It was just an old building—certainly very well maintained, but definitely not a high-tech security setup. And, if Tiffany had been having mental problems, then feeling watched certainly wouldn’t have been unusual for her. As for the woman who’d only rented for a week—well, people change their minds all the time. So, as much as I instantly liked Dena and Missy, I made up my mind right then and there not to take too seriously anything they said about the building.

Especially about my apartment being haunted.

Then one morning, when I was checking my mail slot, a handsome man walked into the foyer, nodding politely at me.

“Oh, you must be Miss Buckley,” he said, peeping over my shoulder at the number on my mailbox. “I’m Hunter Sweeney.”

“Oh, Mr. Sweeney,” I said, dropping my mail. Crouching to hastily collect it from the floor, I quickly rose and smiled at him. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

He was tall, with dark hair that curled over his shoulders. His deep-green eyes peered down at me. An expensively cut suit did little to hide his athletic build. “I trust you’re happy with your new living arrangements?” His eyes traveled up and down my body as he spoke, studying me.

Much as I hated it, I blushed like a silly little schoolgirl. “Oh, of course! The apartment is wonderful!”

A long-fingered hand went to his lapel. “I’m glad you’ll be a part of our little family.”

“I’ve met Missy and Dena, and they seem very nice. I’m sure I’m going to love it here.”

His brow furrowed. “You did hear about poor Tiffany and her . . . problem?”

“Yes. But that doesn’t bother me. Everyone is different.”

He grinned at me, his perfect teeth as white as snow. “Perhaps we can get together soon?”

I felt myself blushing again. “I’d like that.”

With a nod of his head, he climbed the stairs. Hunter Sweeney certainly was charming. But there was something about him that just didn’t set right with me, right from the start.

   Uh-oh, I thought. Don’t start getting paranoid like Tiffany. I realized I would have to keep my imagination under control.

The first incident occurred about three weeks after I’d moved in. I was in my huge shower, letting the spray massage me, when I got the funniest feeling that someone was in the bathroom with me. Pushing the glass shower door open, I peeked out. There was no one there—just the rain beating against the bathroom window.

woman aloneThat’s odd, I thought. I feel like someone’s watching me. The hair at the back of my neck bristled as I quickly rinsed the soap off of me. Stepping out of the shower, I quickly wrapped myself in a towel. Going to the window, I wiped the steam away, and then looked out. The window faced the alley, but there was no access to it. If anyone were, in fact, snooping on me, I realized they’d have to be two stories tall. Shaking my head, I gazed around me at the small room. Nothing there.

Deciding I was just nervous, I went into the bedroom, slipping on my robe. Shuffling out to the kitchen in my slippers, I poured myself a glass of wine, remembering my nana.

She’d come from the old country, and her life was always filled with superstitions and silly beliefs. She always made sure the local priest blessed her house every year—to keep evil spirits away. Garlic hung near her kitchen window to keep vampires from gaining access to her home; out of old twigs, she fashioned little, makeshift witches to hang in her kitchen to ward off the evil eye. To make sure that the Old Hag didn’t attack her at night, she hung witches’ balls in her bedroom window.

Granted, she was a little eccentric, but many of her beliefs came to my mind suddenly. Maybe the place really was haunted. After all, I’d felt as if someone were watching me. Was it only a case of nerves, or was some lonely, departed spirit inhabiting my apartment?

I took a deep swig of wine and then laughed. How silly! I was letting my imagination run wild like a scared deer. Sighing, I went to bed. Enough of ghosts for one night.

The first time I noticed something definitely strange was when I returned from a two-day business trip. I’d locked up the apartment, asked Missy to pick up my mail, and generally felt safe about leaving for those days.

Until I got home.

When I walked into the apartment, I instantly felt like something was off-kilter. You know how it feels when you know something is wrong, but you just can’t pinpoint it? Something really harmless, but still different, nonetheless?

I dropped my suitcase onto the couch and turned to check the messages on my answering machine. That’s when I noticed that the small, framed photograph of my grandmother wasn’t in its usual place on the bookshelf. It was now on the table, next to the answering machine. I raked my mind, trying to remember if I’d left it there before leaving. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember.

A slippery shiver inched up my spine, nonetheless. My breath came in short gasps, fear penetrating my body. Slowly, I turned. The rest of the room was perfect, and yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching me, keeping an eye on what I was doing.

What nonsense! I was making ghosts out of a moved photograph! Laughing, I grabbed my keys and trotted down the stairs to get my mail.

“So, how was San Francisco?” Missy asked, pulling me into her apartment. “I missed you!”

I glanced around the apartment, realizing it was identical to mine. Except for the light fixtures. Mine were modernistic, and black, while hers were old, antique, ceramic. I guessed the money had run out when Hunter got to remodeling this apartment.

“San Francisco was wonderful,” I said, taking my mail from her outstretched hand. “I missed you guys, though.”

She grinned. “Dena is up north for a conference. I’ve had the building all to myself. And it’s been really creepy.”

I liked Missy, but she could be a little too ditzy for me at times. She was into reading Tarot cards, divining, and anything that the New Age had produced. “Well, it’s hard to get used to old buildings; they creak and groan,” I said, trying to make light of what she’d said.

She came close, the smell of lavender floating around her like a cloud. “It isn’t the building,” she whispered. “It’s something here that watches us, I swear. I even heard it walking around in your apartment.”

I inched toward the door as she crept closer to me. “Well, uh—thanks for getting my mail,” I said, pulling open the door. “I’ll talk to you later.”

I was out the door and up the stairs in a flash. Missy called to me from down below, but I just closed my door hard so she’d give up. Putting my ear to the door, I heard her door close downstairs, too. Breathing a sigh of relief, I headed for a glass of wine.

A few days later, I found a note stuck on my door. I pulled it free, opening the ivory stationery gently. The note was from Hunter, asking me to join him for dinner that night.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to get chummy with Hunter. Oh, he was certainly very handsome, and he possessed charm that would turn any woman’s head. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that all wasn’t right with that man. He didn’t have long, blood-coated fangs, or wear a sweeping black cape, but still—I felt uncomfortable around him.

However, one didn’t offend her landlord—especially when the rent was so affordable. So I called Hunter’s answering service and told the operator that I’d be glad to join him for dinner.

To say the evening was great is putting it mildly. Hunter picked me up at my apartment and ushered me through a locked door at the end of the second-floor hallway. I’d noticed the door before, but figured it was a utility closet of some kind. Soon enough, though, I learned that it led to his private entrance to the third floor.

We climbed a short flight of stairs that gave onto a landing, which opened into a huge loft space. The attic was definitely very modern, but still comfortable. With the exception of a small, closed-off room near the back, the whole floor was like something out of an architectural magazine.

“This is very nice,” I said, eyeing an expensive print on the wall.

“Thank you.” Hunter handed me a flute of champagne. “I like the openness.”

I walked around—nosing around, really. There were bookcases lined with computer and cinema texts. Marble columns held bronze and terracotta statues.

“You’re into art?”

He nodded. “A little. With my kind of work, I don’t get to appreciate the finer things in life.”

Turning to him, I asked, “What kind of work do you do?”

He motioned toward a sleek, red, leather couch. I sat down, sipping my champagne. “Mostly computers and cinematic applications. Nothing exciting.”

“It must keep you busy, though. You sure seem to be gone a lot.”

Nodding, he shrugged. “These days, I work out of my laptop. I call it my traveling office.”

I watched him tuck a strand of raven-black hair behind his ear. “Well, at least you have this wonderful place as a retreat.”

He went to the small kitchen and retrieved a platter of fruit and cheese. “Yes, I love it here.”

Picking up a slice of mango, I smiled. “I love it here, too. Except. . . .”

“What?”

“Well, I think Missy and Dena have filled my head with ghosts, and, sometimes, I feel like I’m actually being watched . . . in my apartment.” Wanly, I tried to smile.

“Really? Funny, Tiffany said the same thing—though the poor woman was mentally ill.”

Okay, I thought to myself, open mouth and insert foot. Now I’d made myself look like I was some kind of mental case, too. “Oh, it’s just my imagination, I’m sure.” I chewed the mango slice, hoping I hadn’t looked like too much of a fool.

Hunter nibbled on a slice of cheese. “I was going to put security cameras on every floor, but I decided they’d intrude upon my tenants’ privacy. That’s why I have the double-locks on the front door.”

“Oh, it’s fine. I guess I’ve just been reacting to what Missy told me. She sure comes up with some strange ideas.”

Hunter laughed. “Yes, she’s quite a character. But she and Dena have been terrific tenants. Missy’s a tad eccentric, though.”

Nodding, I gazed around the apartment. “What’s that room back there?”

“Oh, excuse me. That’s my office. Just some computers. A desk. Ready to eat?”

Life settled into a pattern. Most evenings, I brought reports home from the office to go over and recheck. Some evenings, I came home so dog-tired that I collapsed on the couch, totally exhausted.

On those nights when I worked late, though, I still had the creepy feeling that I was being watched. Hunter graciously bought shades for my windows, which I pulled down faithfully every night. Still, that eerie feeling crept with me from room to room. Washing dishes, I felt like someone was peering over my shoulder. In the shower, those eyes wouldn’t break away. Even tucked in bed, I felt as if someone were sharing the room with me. Quilt pulled up to my chin, I would listen quietly, almost hoping to hear something out of the ordinary. But then there would be just the groan of the building settling in the cool night. Gazing around, I would search for a wispy form to appear and float toward me across the bed.

Nothing ever happened.

But how was I to explain those objects that seemed to move by themselves? Like the little porcelain doll I kept on a bookcase. I’d found it one night, sitting on a window ledge. And what about the red-sequined dress I’d spent a fortune on? Hadn’t it been wrapped in a plastic bag? Now, it hung, uncovered, in my closet—not where I thought I’d put it, but on the other end.

How strange.

One day at lunch, I was sitting with my friend, Candace, when I mentioned the puzzling happenings in my apartment. “You don’t suppose the place is haunted, do you?”

She frowned. “Nah. It’s most likely someone snooping around in your apartment. What about that batty neighbor who lives downstairs from you?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Missy isn’t batty. She’s just a little . . . different. Anyway, I don’t see her coming into my apartment. She’s not the kind.”

“Then what about the other one?”

“Same with Dena. And she’s gone a lot, and I doubt she’d sneak around, anyway.”

Candace twirled a strand of her short, blond hair around her finger. “Then it’s definitely someone else. Ever consider setting up a video camera to see who it is?” Candace was a technical buff. Any new electronic device kept her happy. I knew immediately what she wanted to do.

“No, I can’t do that. Anyway, it’s probably just my imagination.”

She bit her bottom lip. “Listen Yasmin—it’s not your imagination. Sure, you get dumb ideas sometimes, but you’re by no means ready for the funny farm. So if you feel creepy in your own apartment, then it’s time you found out why.”

“But—video equipment?” I shook my head. “That’s spy stuff.”

“Glad you realized it.” She pulled a pad out of her purse and grabbed a pen. “I’ll make a list of what we’ll need and bring it over tomorrow night. We’ll set it up and catch that pesky little ghost.”

I was already having doubts. “No, I’m fine. Really.”

She tossed the pad and pen into her purse. “No, you’re not. I’ll be by tomorrow night.”

Candace rigged the cameras in closets in every room, positioning the lenses through the slats on the doors. The kitchen was a little tricky, so she put the camera in the breadbox, with the cover just barely open.

“We won’t get the full figure of your ghost,” she explained, “but at least some part of it.”

I felt sillier by the minute. “Candace, maybe this is going too far. . . .”

Positioning a small microphone under the blender, she then turned to me. “Quit it. It’s all set up. All we do now is wait.”

And that’s exactly what I did.

For two days, the tapes revealed nothing. Candace rewound them and checked the equipment.

“We’ll give it one more day, then call it quits. It just might be your imagination, after all.”

“Okay, then that’s it. I hate this super-spy game, anyway.”

Running a hand through her hair, she sighed. “Yep, I agree. But it’s worth one more try.”

“Say we do get someone or something taped. Then what?”

She shrugged her bony shoulders, adjusted her tank-top straps, and grinned. “It’s your baby, then.”

Just what I needed.

The following night, when I got home from work, there was an ivory note tucked under the door. Smiling, I knew it was from Hunter. Another invitation to dinner? I opened it quickly. He wanted me to join him for a nightcap. Okay, fine with me.

Tucking the note into my pocket, I went inside my apartment. And immediately gasped. Several books were laid out on the coffee table—books that had been tucked away in the bookcase. A vase with a bouquet of tulips arranged in it was sitting on the kitchen counter. Without hesitation, I called Candace.

“Someone’s been in my apartment!” I cried.

“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

The note in my pocket crinkled and I remembered Hunter’s invitation. Quickly, I dialed his exchange, leaving a message that I might be a little late, due to work. I figured I’d explain later what was really going on.

Candace must’ve run every red light in town to get to my apartment so fast. I threw open the door and she rushed in.

“Got ‘em!” she said, opening the closet doors and ejecting the videotapes from the recorders. “Whooee!” she cried, dancing around the room. “Let’s get the kitchen one, too!”

She pulled the small camera out of the breadbox, and then reached for the microphone. “Damn it—I think I put it too far under the blender. We might not get good sound, if any.”

“Hurry—let’s look at the tapes!”

Candace slipped a tape into my VCR and pushed play. After a few whirls, the VCR sprang to life. We stared closely at the TV screen, waiting to see a ghost. Instead, all we saw were the shoes of someone who was roaming my apartment.

“Damn it!” Candace swore again. “I thought I’d leveled the cameras enough to angle through the slats on the closet doors. Shoot! All we got are feet!” She frowned and plopped down onto the couch.

“But we got the shoes,” I replied. “And that means it’s a real person coming in, not a ghost.”

She brightened. “Yeah, you’re right! Hey—do those shoes look familiar to you?”

“Well, it definitely looks like they’re men’s shoes—polished, neat, and expensive. But I don’t know anyone who wears shoes like those.”

“Too bad. It’s definitely a clue, though.” Standing up, she pulled on her jacket. “Well, girl, I gotta run. Sorry this was such a bust. We can try again.”

I shook my head. “I’ve had enough spying to last a lifetime. Thanks for your help, though.”

Saluting me, she slipped out the door.

So someone was coming into my apartment. But who—and why? And why did I feel like I was being watched whenever I was home alone?

Remembering my “date” with Hunter, I dashed into the bedroom to get dressed—and, as usual—felt the eyes peering at me.

“I’m glad you could come,” Hunter said, inviting me inside. “Would you like some wine?”

“Yes, I’d love some.” I settled onto the couch. The leather squeaked under my weight. “How’s business?”

I heard the pop of a cork. Then Hunter said, “I’ve been gone a week. Business seems to get better every day.”

“That’s great.”

He came and handed me a glass of white wine. “To us,” he toasted.

I raised my glass, glad to be able to escape my apartment for a while. Sipping the wine, I debated whether or not to tell him about the intruder. Waiting till I was certain who it was made better sense, but I still hated the idea of having my privacy invaded in such a terrible way.

Hunter sat down beside me, putting his feet up on the glass-topped coffee table. “Ah, it’s great to relax.”

Just as I went to take another sip, my eyes fell on Hunter’s shoes. There was no mistaking the highly polished leather, the intricate stitching of the imported shoes. They were the same shoes we’d seen in Candace’s videos.

My breath caught in my throat. Was it possible? Was Hunter going into my apartment? Moving things? Snooping around?

It couldn’t be. Surely, he wasn’t the type to do such a thing.

Or was he?

Hunter put his arm around me. I couldn’t contain the shiver that raced up my spine. “Are you cold, Yasmin?” he asked.

“Oh . . . I’m fine. I—I just might be getting a bug or something.” I moved slightly to the right, only to have him move with me.

Grabbing my hand, he helped me to my feet. “Let’s get more wine,” he said, his face close to mine.

I stared in disbelief at the handsome face before me. No, it wasn’t true. Hunter wasn’t snooping around. . . .

Then his lips covered mine, and just as quickly, I pulled away. “Oh—please!” I cried.

His dark eyes shimmered. “What’s wrong? Did I frighten you?”

I croaked out a faint laugh. “I—I think I’m coming down with something and I—I don’t want to give it to you.” I gazed up at him. “Please, Hunter—I’m not feeling well. You don’t mind if I skip tonight, do you?”

He took my arm, his fingers tight around my sleeve. “Yasmin, maybe I should take you to a doctor? You look pale.”

Pale wasn’t the word for how I looked. I knew I looked as if I’d seen the devil in the flesh. Trembling, I shook my head. “No—I’ll be fine. I—I just want to lie down for a while.”

“Let me walk you down,” he said, reaching for his coat.

“No!” I cried. “I mean—I’m okay. Really. Please—just stay here. I’m sorry about this.”

Before he could say another word, I was out the door and down the steps. Seconds later, stepping into my apartment, I locked the door behind me and then leaned against it, breathing deeply.

What was I going to do?

The following morning at work, I caught up with Candace.

“I know who the intruder is,” I told her quietly.

Her eyes widened in surprise. “C’mon. You’re kidding. Right?”

“No. I’m serious—I know who he is. He’s my landlord.”

Candace’s mouth dropped open. “You mean—that guy who’s never around? The computer guy?”

“The one who also does cinematic work,” I added.

“Holy moly. That’s creepy. What’re you gonna do?”

I leaned against the wall, shrugging. “I don’t know. I can’t prove anything with just a few shots of his shoes. I’ll need something more solid to go to the police with.”

She wiggled her leg nervously. “How do you explain the feeling you have of being watched when he’s not even around? The cops aren’t going to bust him on your word alone. You need something concrete.”

“Okay. You’re the technical genius; tell me how you’d give me a creepy feeling without being around?”

Tapping her foot, she thought for a moment. “Actually, it’s quite simple. What I’d do was put hidden cameras in all the rooms of your apartment. These days, cameras are so small, you can place them almost anywhere.”

“But I’ve checked the place up and down. There’s nothing suspicious.”

“Of course there isn’t, Sherlock,” she said, rolling her eyes. “If he’s got the place wired, he doesn’t want you finding the cameras. So what’s unusual about your place?”

“Nothing, really.”

“C’mon. There’s got to be something different.”

“Well, it’s an old building, and only the attic and the second floor got extensive remodeling. Missy and Dena have the old-fashioned light fixtures, while mine are more modern and—”

The words died on my lips.

“Oh, my God—he’s got the cameras in the light fixtures. That’s why I never saw them.” I smacked my forehead. “I should’ve known.”

Candace patted my shoulder. “No big deal. Who would’ve thought? Okay, so they’re in the light fixtures. You still need more than that for the cops to do anything.”

“Well, if he’s taping me . . . then he has copies of the tapes somewhere. We’ve got to get those.”

“Yeah, but you’ve been in his apartment, and you haven’t seen anything. So where’re the tapes?”

man in suitMentally, I retraced the layout of Hunter’s apartment. Suddenly, I remembered the locked office. “Candace, he has a small office that he keeps locked—all the time. With two padlocks on the door. That’s got to be the place.”

“Bingo! You’ve got it! Now, though, we’ve got to get in.”

“And do what?”

“Steal the tapes, stupid. Then you can go to the police with them.”

“But—I never know when he’s gone.”

“What about his mail? Packages? Who collects them when he leaves?”

“Missy does. She got mine while I was away, too. She’ll know when he leaves again.”

Candace was hopping around. “That’s great! So find out when he leaves, and then we’ll sneak inside!”

“But that’s breaking-and-entering, isn’t it?”

She smiled wickedly. “Only if we’re caught.”

I stopped in to talk to Missy and Dena when I got home. I hated to use them in my plot, but I had no choice.

“Hi, Dena,” I said when she opened the door. “Is Missy around?”

Dena shook her head. “No. She had to visit our mother; she’s sick.”

My heart sank. “Oh, darn. I wanted to ask her something.”

“What?”

“Well, I—uh—I thought I’d give a small dinner party for the apartment tenants. But I don’t know when Hunter’s going out of town again.”

Dena’s beady eyes studied me closely. “So why don’t you ask him?”

Fair enough question. Now I had to think up a convincing lie. “Uh, I can’t, because I want to make it a surprise for him. With him being such a great landlord and all, I think I owe it to him.”

“You inviting us, too?” she pressed.

“Of course,” I said, managing a not-too-phony laugh. “I wouldn’t have a party without you two!”

Dena smiled through tight lips. “Well, I’m not one to give out information, but under the circumstances. . . .” Leaning forward, she whispered, “You’ve missed him this week. He had some emergency business to take care of. He was in quite a hurry. Said he’d be back next week.”

“That’s great!” I cried, stifling my excitement. “But—are you sure? I mean, I wouldn’t want to mess up the dates.”

She frowned at me. “Yasmin, I’m very specific in everything I do. Hunter asked me to get his mail this week, and that’s what I’ll do.” She sniffed loudly. “I would never ‘mess up the dates,’ as you put it.”

I’d certainly been put in my place. I offered her a weak smile. “Thanks, Dena. I’ll see that you get an invitation. We’ll make it for when Missy comes back.”

Dena pulled her thick lips into a tight line. “At least I hope she won’t mention any ghosts,” she huffed.

I didn’t reply. Turning on my heels, I was up the stairs to my place in no time.

My fingers trembled as I punched in Candace’s number on my phone. “Candace? He’s gone! We’ll have to do it soon!”

“Then it’s tonight. I’ll see you in an hour. Dress in dark clothing.”

“What?” I asked before she hung up. Dark clothes? What next?

With Candace, you never knew.

Candace set her small toolbox down near the entrance to Hunter’s place. Pulling out a small set of lock picks, she wiggled each of them around inside of the lock. Pressing her ear to the side of the lock, she smiled when we both heard the audible click of the tumblers falling into place.

“Okay; let’s do this.”

At that moment, I had second thoughts. After all, this was my landlord’s apartment that we were breaking-and-entering.

“Wait.” I grabbed Candace’s arm. “Maybe we shouldn’t do this.”

She sighed. “Yasmin, you’ve got to get evidence if you’re going to the cops. Quit being such a sissy.” Grabbing my arm, she pulled me inside to the stairs, and then softly closed the door behind us. “We’ve got to do this fast.”

There was no turning back then. My heart pounded in my chest. My breath came in short gasps. I couldn’t believe we were actually doing it—breaking into Hunter’s home.

We climbed the steps quickly. Entering the loft, I reached for the light switch. Candace slapped my hand away.

“No lights. And keep your voice down to a whisper. He’s probably got this place bugged, too.”

She looked around, and then turned toward the office. Tiptoeing, we made our way across the polished wood floor. A couple of Oriental rugs softened our footfalls. Within seconds, Candace was at the office doors, inspecting the locks.

“Simple. No problem here.” Out came the picks again, and another tool I didn’t recognize. A twist here, a turn there—and the first lock clicked open. The same procedure, and then the second one was open, too.

“Where’d you learn how to do all this?” I whispered, shamefully impressed.

“My dad’s a locksmith.”

“So now what?”

She put the locks on the floor, and then gently opened the doors. “Inside we go.”

I followed her into the office. It was well lit, and looked more like a television studio than an office. Shelves held small TV sets that displayed various areas of the apartment filmed by different, closed-circuit cameras. Other sets showed something completely different—

The inside of my apartment.

My knees wobbled. Candace pulled out a chair, pushing me into it. “Stay here and stay calm. I’ll find the tapes.”

I watched in silence as she pulled tapes from a rack near the TV monitors. It was eerie, sitting in the chair, catching scenes of my apartment on the closed-circuit monitors displayed before me. Candace had been right about the light fixtures. Hunter had gone to a lot of trouble to set up his surveillance system.

Candace stuffed several tapes into her duffel bag and then came over to me. “C’mon. We’ve gotta get out of here.”

As quietly as possible, we hurried out of the office. Candace closed the doors behind us, snapping the locks back into place. Just as she turned to me, the front door lock squeaked.

Hunter was home!

“Damn. We’ve got to get out of here,” Candace muttered, grabbing my arm. “Is there a door to the outside?”

“Yes, but it goes out to a balcony over my back porch. There aren’t any stairs. I don’t even know how you’d get out in case of a fire.”

“We’ll soon find out.”

Crawling almost on our knees, we moved toward the kitchen. Then Candace stopped suddenly; Hunter was inside the loft, his footsteps heading toward his office.

“Let’s get outta here!” Candace growled.

I followed her to the back door. Her steady fingers turned the knob. Holding my breath, I waited for the door to squeak loudly as she opened it. It didn’t.

Seconds later, we were out on the balcony. “There’s the fire ladder!” Candace said.

“Let’s get it down.”

Candace shook her head. “We can’t. He’ll know we’ve been here. We’re going to have to drop down to your porch.”

“What?” What did she think I was—a circus acrobat?

She pushed me over to the ledge. “Just put your feet down on the railing of your porch and drop onto the floor.”

I gazed down at the porch railing that seemed miles away. “I can’t do it. I’m afraid!”

She shook me hard. “You’ve got to! Who knows what this guy is capable of?”

All I remember is hopping over the ledge, feeling my feet hit the railing, and then slipping down onto the porch. Seconds later, Candace did the same, her little bag hooked to her belt.

We had made it.

“Let’s take these tapes over to my place to watch,” Candace said, going down the back steps. Just as we reached the bottom, footsteps echoed on the balcony.

“He’s coming!” I cried.

Candace and I pressed up close against the building. “Be quiet!” she whispered anxiously.

Hunter’s shadow could be seen. “Hello? Anyone down there?”

I jumped at his voice, but kept my back glued against the wall. We waited in silence until he retreated back into his apartment.

At the sound of his back door closing, Candace and I raced to the garage, then out a side door to her car. Nonchalantly, we walked half a block to where she’d parked. It wasn’t until we were safely inside her car that I breathed a sigh of relief.

“We did it!” Candace said proudly, holding out the tapes. “The cops are gonna love these!”

I leaned back, trying to still my racing heart. Beads of sweat rolled down from my armpits. This was just about the worst thing I’d ever gone through. “Okay,” I said. “Let’s see what we’ve got.”

Candace and I sat in the police station’s video room watching the tapes. There I was, sudsing up in the shower, running the soap all over my naked body. I knew that the detectives weren’t ogling, but I couldn’t help but feel horribly embarrassed, ashamed, devastated, and violated as the camera zoomed in on my hardened nipples.

I gasped when another shot showed me naked, slowly getting dressed for work. As I hummed to myself, Hunter’s camera zeroed in on my private parts.

I was sick.

I felt like I’d been raped.

After the police saw the tapes, a warrant was issued for Hunter’s arrest. Unfortunately, he’d left town without anyone knowing it—just vanished into the night like a ghost.

But the tapes would be great evidence if he were ever caught. There were tapes of Tiffany showering and doing chores around her apartment; two tapes were filled just with raw footage of me in the shower, in bed, and watching television. Other tapes that Candace had snatched were even more pornographic in nature.

A thorough inspection of my apartment revealed the concealed cameras in the light fixtures. Hunter had the cameras linked to his own, closed-circuit monitors in his apartment, and also wired directly into an online, pay-per-view, live-sex-cam link that serviced any pervert with a camera and a major credit card.

“No wonder Tiffany moved,” I told Missy and Dena later on. “She was right all along. She was being spied on—videotaped doing the most personal, private things that a woman can possibly do! Just like I was!”

Missy shook her head sadly. “This explains all the noises we kept hearing upstairs. Hunter was roaming around your apartment when he was supposed to be at work. Do you think he’ll come back?”

“The police know he’s left the country. So all they can do is wait for him to try and return.”

“How awful. To think that someone would actually do something like this!” Tears filled Missy’s eyes. “My God—no woman is safe!”

I held her close. “You’re right. That’s why we’ve got to always pay attention to those subtle feelings we all get at times. Because it’s not always just our imaginations at work.”

I’m still in the apartment. Hunter’s brother took over the management of the building in his stead, and he’s graciously kept the rents reasonable. The office upstairs has been turned into a library. The only surveillance cameras on the premises now are those that track visitors and tenants at each end of the hallways. Just for security reasons, not for spying.

I’m glad Candace and I helped stop Hunter from continuing his depraved perversity. The only regret I have today is that he still hasn’t been found.

Which worries me.

Because somewhere, in another country, Hunter is probably doing the same thing to other innocent, unsuspecting women that he did to me. Taping the most intimate, private moments of a woman’s life. Invading her privacy—

And she doesn’t even know it.

I can only hope that she gets a feeling of something being strange . . . something that’s not quite right, not quite what it seems to be. And that she takes that feeling seriously.

Because, only then, can Hunter be found and put on trial.

My St. Patrick’s Day Romance

Retro couple

My St. Patrick’s Day started like ever other day. I awoke in my small, dreary apartment to the sound of my leaky bathroom faucet dripping slowly. I sighed and then I crawled out of bed and put on my green-colored clothes because it was St. Patrick’s Day. I pinned a small, round button on my sweater which said, KISS ME I’M IRISH! I was only going into the office, but I thought maybe Charles would notice it, and that old spark of excitement would return to his eyes.

I grabbed a container of strawberry yogurt, and headed out the door. On the first floor of our building, I literally ran into my neighbor, Jack Diehl. He was coming out of his apartment reading a book as I hurried by, trying to eat my breakfast on the run. Neither of us saw the other until it was too late.

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, as I tried to catch my tumbling container of yogurt.

After reaching down to pick up his book, Jack smiled a warm smile, and insisted the accident had been all his fault.

That wasn’t the truth, but I didn’t have time to stand around and disagree with him. I mumbled, “That’s okay,” and raced to the door, leaving Jack standing there with his mouth open as if he were about to continue the conversation.

My old car made its way into the city, until I arrived at my usual parking space.

My legs were sore as I walked up the stairs because they hadn’t yet recovered from the aerobics class I’d started two days earlier. Our old building had two sets of elevators, and both were out of order. “I need a change!” I muttered, thinking of how each day seemed a little worse than the one before.

“Denise,” my friend, Claire, said. She tapped my shoulder, as I pulled my swivel chair out from my desk and sat down. “His majesty wants you in his office. Now!” she said, rolling her eyes. Claire also lived in the same building I did.

His majesty was Charles Baldwin, our department head, and my boyfriend for the past seven months. He was the best-looking guy in our office. He was so gorgeous, and he was popular with all the girls.

In our department, however, Charles’s good looks couldn’t make up for the demanding boss that he was.

“I’d expected those new account reports on my desk yesterday,” he said, barely looking up from the papers in front of him, as I walked into his office.

“They’ll be ready today,” I told him, annoyed that he was so cold. “You didn’t tell me that you needed them yesterday. They would’ve been here,” I tried to say in a forceful voice.

Charles and I had agreed when we’d started dating, that our working relationship would not change. But lately, I felt as if Charles expected twice as much work from me as he did from the others in our department. It seemed that nothing I did was right.

As I turned to leave, I remembered that we had plans to go to a small, Irish pub that evening. We had been planning our St. Patrick’s Day date for a long time. We had decided that we would stand in line for several hours, if that’s what it took to get into the little pub that was known for its good food and great music.

“What time are we going this evening?” I asked.

Charles stood and turned to face the file cabinet that was behind him. “About tonight,” he said.

He didn’t need to finish. I knew he was canceling our date again, but he continued and muttered some excuse about helping his sister and her husband to install new living-room carpeting. I knew it was a lie.

He turned back to face me. “And take that silly thing off!” he said, pointing to the small, green pin I’d placed on my sweater, hoping to perk him up.

My eyes began to sting with tears, but I fought to hold them in. If Claire saw me leaving Charles’s office upset again, I was afraid she’d march in and throw a large stack of his precious account folders at him.

I grabbed the doorknob and began to pull, just as Cecily Dawson stepped in. She’d started work six weeks before, and my heart went out to her. She looked so young, and I guessed that it was her first job. It’s too bad she’s been placed under the supervision of such a tyrant as Charles Baldwin, I thought, as I left the room.

I headed straight for the water cooler hoping Claire wouldn’t notice me. She couldn’t believe that I was still seeing Charles after what a jerk he’d been. In fact, Claire couldn’t believe I’d ever started dating him. “He’s not your type, Denise,” she’d said, shocked when I’d first told her I was going out with him.

She was absolutely right. Charles wasn’t the type of man I’d usually gone out with. That had been one of the reasons I’d found him so attractive I was the girl who’d barely had a date through high school, and things really never improved. I’d been known for turning bright red if any reasonably good-looking guy even spoke to me.

When Charles had first asked me out, I’d nearly fainted. I couldn’t believe that this handsome guy, who could have his pick of any girl in the office, was interested in me.

I’d forced myself to remain calm, and for once I’d manged to throw my shyness aside and accepted his offer.

As I went back to my desk, Claire stopped me and asked if I was plat going to the St. Patrick’s Day party that was being held in the party room of our apartment building that evening.

“I don’t think so,” I whined, still wounded by Charles’s words.

Despite the condition of our old apartment building, the tenants had decided to all pitch in and go to work refinishing the party room. We usually had a party for every possible occasion, making sure our hard work had been for a good cause.

“Why not?” Claire asked.

“I thought I’d stay at home and work on that leaky faucet,” I told her, trying not to sound whiny. I didn’t want another lecture about how I should stop seeing Charles.

“Yeah. You sure wouldn’t want to go out to some stupid, little party when you could be at home working on your plumbing!” she said.

I had to smile. Claire always had a way of making me smile. I guess that’s why she’d been my best friend since fourth grade.

“I’ll stop by for you,” she said.  “We’ll go down to the party room together.” She finished her sentence, and walked before I had a chance to refuse.

I knew it would be a good idea to go to the party. Charles certainly wouldn’t be sitting at home all evening.

Then I remembered Jack Diehl. He’d only moved in three months before. Claire was always telling me what an interesting guy he was. According to her, he’d been all over the world to study sea animals, and then he wrote about his findings. He’d started teaching a course about his work at our local university.

I decided I’d like to talk to Jack. I was also very interested in sea animals. I’d even taken some courses in sea farming at the university. Of course, I didn’t know interested Jack would be in talking with me. After all, how exciting could I make my boring job sound to someone who’d traveled all over the world and really experienced life?

Claire and I decided to go to the little diner across the street for lunch. I usually had lunch with Charles, but ever since he become so distant, he preferred to stay at his desk and eat.

I tried not to think about him, as we prepared to leave. I knew he had a great deal of responsibility as supervisor of our entire department. He’d probably been overworked lately, I decided.

Claire noticed Cecily Dawson sitting at her desk behind a tall stack of folders as we headed for the door. “Do you think we should ask her to come along?” Claire asked.

I nodded, once again feeling sorry for the young woman. She looked like she could really use a break.

“Thanks. But I can’t,” Cecily said in a whispery voice. “If I leave my desk, I’ll never finish all of this.” She pointed to the papers piled up in front of her.

Claire and I shook our heads in disbelief as we left the building. We couldn’t believe that Charles had given her so much work.

After we each ordered soups and salads, Claire filled me in on the details of the party our neighbors had planned. There were going to be plenty of games, and it was going to be a lot of fun.

Our conversation was going fine, until Claire asked me if I wanted to invite Charles. I told her he was going to be busy and wouldn’t be able to make it. She sud­denly remembered Charles and I had been planning our St. Patrick’s Day date for a long time.

“What excuse did he give you this time?” she asked, as she buttered one of the hot rolls that had come with our lunch.

“He’s helping his sister,” I said.

“Sure he is!”

We ate without talking for a few min­utes, until Claire felt that it was her re­sponsibility to warn me about Charles again.

“He can’t be trusted, Denise,” she said. “Remember Debra Fulton and Susan DeMayo?”

I nodded. Charles had been dating Debra when I started working there. Everyone in the office expected the two of them to get married. They seemed so happy together. Then all of a sudden Debra started show­ing up for work nervous and upset, and she’d break into tears at the least little thing. That lasted about two weeks, and then she told us she was leaving work.

Susan was gorgeous. She started about a week after Debra’s departure. It was obvious to all of us that she and Charles were an item right from the beginning. They were both so good looking. Everyone thought for sure they were a match made to last. But after a few months, there seemed to be trouble in paradise. Then Susan shocked us with the announcement that she was quitting her job and going to marry an actor from our town.

“But we don’t know what really hap­pened with Debra and Susan,” I said. “It could have been just as much their fault as Charles’s,” I argued, trying to defend him.

Claire just rolled her eyes and sighed loudly.

Charles had asked me out a few weeks after Susan had left. I’d figured he wouldn’t want more than one date with me anyway, so I was safe. On our first evening together, I’d made it a point to ask Charles what had happened with Debra and Susan. He’d tried to explain, but he got so upset that he couldn’t. I’d figured he’d been truly hurt by those breakups. So when he asked me out again, I accepted.

The first few months we were seeing each other, Charles was wonderful. He always made sure we were doing things that I en­joyed doing, and going places that I liked to go. When he began to change, and in­sisted on planning all of our dates around the things he liked to do, I had no com­plaints. After all, we’d been doing every­thing my way for some time. The real trouble started, when Charles began cancel­ing our dates at the last minute, or didn’t show up for them at all. And when we were out together, he seemed distant and cold. On the job, he’d become more demanding than ever.

Maybe I’m not the only one who needs a change, I thought. Charles had been working awfully hard. He could probably use a nice, relaxing vacation away from the hectic pace of work.

After we finished lunch and started back across the street, Claire told me that Jack Diehl had been awarded a grant from the government to study animals in the Atlantic Ocean. She said he’d be taking off once again at the end of the summer. This time to spend a year aboard a boat.

“Now, that’s a life,” I said, thinking of how Jack would be out in the vast, blue ocean carrying on his work.

As soon as I reach the office, I thought, I’ll march right in and suggest to Charles that we take our vacations and head south where we can find some hot, sandy beach to lounge on.

Charles’s door was closed when I reached it. That was his signal that he didn’t want to be disturbed, but I felt my news was too important to wait. I was hoping that he’d become as enthused about a vacation as I was.

I knocked once and then quickly pushed the door open. I don’t know who was more surprised, Charles and Cecily, or me. Cecily was perched comfortably on Charles’s lap. Apparently, she and the boss had decided her large stack of work didn’t need to be completed so quickly after all.

Young couple having sex at workplace

Cecily slowly slid off Charles’s lap and slipped out of the room with a smile of satisfaction on her face.

“Denise,” Charles said. “Come in and sit down. Please.”

But I didn’t feel like sitting down. I felt more like walking over and knocking Charles off his chair and onto the floor!

“That won’t be necessary,” I told him, trying to keep my voice from cracking or the tears from starting. “There’s no explanation for the way you behave, and I don’t want to hear anything you have to say!” I walked out of his office, and slammed the door as hard as I could.

Everyone was staring at me with looks of sympathy on their faces. I guess they didn’t have to be geniuses to figure out what had just happened. Claire rushed over and started to put her arm around my shoulder, but I stopped her.

“I won’t be seeing Charles any longer I told her. I walked to my desk, sat down and started working.

That evening as I dressed for the partyI tried not to think of Charles and Cecily but of how I was going to fulfill the promise I’d made to myself.

Maybe I can go back to school and continue my studies in sea farming, I thought. Or maybe, I can move to a new town, start a new job, and meet new people.

I was concentrating on all of my options when the doorbell rang. I wondered who it could be. It was still too early for Claire to be stopping by.

I was surprised to find a deliveryman standing there with a large arrangement of flowers. “Denise Madison?” he asks

“Yes,” I said, and he handed me the large bouquet.

I ripped open the tiny envelope, anxious to find out who had sent them. The card read: Sorry about bumping into you this morning. I hope you’re coming to the party tonight. It will make my St. Patrick’s Day something special if you’re there, Jack Diehl.

I took out a vase and began putting flowers in it. I weaved the delicate baby’s breath and tiny shamrocks among them. It was a beautiful arrangement, and a very special one. I actually began to feel that a different and exciting life was possible me.

When Claire arrived, I was dressed in green and had placed a small flower from Jack’s bouquet in my hair.

“Wow!” she said. “You look great!”

“I feel great,” I announced, as Claire studied me with surprise.

“What’s this?” she asked, noticing flowers.

I handed her the card to read for herself.

She didn’t say a thing. She just smiled and I knew she was happy for me.

As we started for the door, I asked her to wait a minute. I ran back to my room and grabbed the small pin I’d worn to work that day. Maybe Charles didn’t appreciate my St. Patrick’s Day enthusiasm, but someone else might.

That evening, my life really did change. Jack was so kind and sensitive. Between games, he explained his work to me, and I was pleased to find that the classes I’d taken did help me to keep up with him. He also listened carefully as I explained what a fool I’d been to trust Charles.

Before we realized it, the party had ended. Claire told us they were turning off the lights and leaving the cleanup until the next evening.

After Jack walked me up to my apartment and we stood by the door to say goodnight, he looked at the pin I was wearing. The pin that proclaimed, KISS ME I’M IRISH!” May I,” he said, before leaning and kissing me tenderly.

ThinkstockPhotos-181862760

After that St. Patrick’s Day, my life was busier than ever. I worked each day, and spent each evening at the university taking classes. When Jack Diehl went off to at the end of that summer to continue, work, I went along with him as his wife, Mrs. Diehl. Now all of our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are special, whether on land or sea!

Are You A Good Date?

beautiful woman is applying makeup

In the world of contemporary romance, it has become common knowledge that there isn’t one perfect solution for finding love. The large number of dating platforms in existence today has created numerous opportunities for both men and women to find the perfect mate and, in the process, make the best possible impression on a date.

While most singles today seem to be making use of these outlets for dates, whether it is online, singles events, speed dating or social media, there are those who feel like nothing is working to help them find love. If you are single and have been using one or all of these vehicles for dating with no luck, it might be time to look inwards and evaluate your personal dating skills.

Sometimes, it is hard to be able to take such a different perspective, but can often help bring new light and more understanding about how you interact with others on dates. Becoming increasingly aware of your dating approach, demeanor, or language can make a huge difference in how successful your dates turn out. If you are feeling less than satisfied with your dating results after trying what feels like everything to meet the right person, perhaps it is time to take a fresh look and see how you might be measuring up. Below is some of our expert dating material assessments for you to consider and determine if you are a good date.

Tip #1: Listen Up.

Young man mad at his uninterested wife

There are a ton of distractions in the world today. Thanks to smart phones, we have a lot going on right in the palm of our hand. When you are on a new date, are you constantly texting or checking your phone? Do you even realize if you are checking your phone too much? Not only can this be a major turn off to your date, but you might also miss a lot of important information being said.

There is a lot that people discuss when on a first date. When meeting someone for the first time, it is important to pay attention to what the other is saying. If you are taking the time to get to know someone, make it count by paying close attention and trying to remember what the other person said. This will help make your date feel like you are interested in them and help you learn more about the person you are sitting across from faster.

Tip #2: Speak up.

Man and Woman Talking at a Diner

As much as your date will appreciate you paying attention to what they had to say about themselves, don’t forget to compliment the conversation overall by giving your two cents and helping drive the topic train throughout your date. If you are the kind of person that gets shy or lets others dominate the discussion, you might end up seeming standoffish. Worse yet, if you tend to be tightlipped on first dates, you might even come off as forgettable or boring.

Try to avoid awkward moments of silence by being inquisitive about your date and bringing up discussion topics that you might find relatable on both ends. Use topics like sports, weather, careers, family, celebrities, favorite foods, hobbies, travel, etc. to make conversation and get to know your date better. Not only will this help further the conversation and keep both individuals invested in the date, but it will also help nurture and develop an emotional connection between new romantic partners.

Tip #3: Be Polite.

Man Giving Vase of Peonies

When on a first date or while getting to know someone, it is simple to forget the basics of being polite. Something as common sense as a please or thank you could be left out at important moments when your date is just starting to formulate their opinions about you as a person. Believe it or not, chivalry is still alive and well today. For singles that are invested in impressing their romantic partners, courtesy and respect are two of the most important attributes they need to succeed.

Tip #4: Look Sharp.

Fashion Couple Portrait, Woman Red Dress, Man Suit, Flying Cloth

First impressions play a big role in how people view each other. If you have made dating into a common occurrence whether it’s after work or on the weekends, be sure to stay up to date with looking fresh and sexy. With so much going on during our busy workdays, it is easy to forget to dress extra hot or do a last minute spruce-up before heading from the office out to the dating circuit.

Sometimes dates happen at a spur of the moment. To make sure you are always prepared to look your best, keep some grooming essentials at work, in your bag or in your car. The investment in some extra perfume, a comb or emergency outfit will pay off!

You might be just joining the dating scene or feel like you have been dating forever. Regardless of where you are at in your dating career, don’t forget to stick to the basic dating tips above to ensure you are bringing your dating-A-game to every experience.

Tips On How To Find Your Soulmate

Milky Way. Silhouettes of hugging and kissing man and woman

1. See Yourself with the Perfect Partner

Envision the perfect relationship. That’s the start of your journey to a great relationship. Imagine someone with all the qualities you’re looking for and having that special someone as your soulmate. Your imagination will open doors and lead you to that special person. Take time out of your day and see yourself in this situation. Before you know it, that person will be in your life. In this case, mental imagery is your tool.

Often couples will say they knew he or she was the right one. This is because prior to meeting, each partner had envisioned some set of ideas they wanted. In other words, they had the perfect partner with those qualities in their mind. It’s very important to pay attention to what you’re thinking. You might be thinking of a special relationship for yourself but have a friend in a poor relationship. You need to not think of your friend with a poor relationship and continue to think yourself in a great one! Remember, your relationship is special for you. Believe it or not when we see other people in poor relationships, it can rub off on you since you’ve been exposed to the idea of a poor relationship.

2. Ask Yourself What You’re Looking for

valentine

Doing a self assessment of your needs in a relationship is tantamount to your relationship success. See what makes you happiest in a person. You might want a great wife and parent and might find that in someone. You might have more money than you’ll ever need and not need the financial support of your partner so a wealthy or well off partner isn’t a requirement. Or you might want to be a homemaker raising children. You’ll want to make sure your partner can provide the basics so you can raise your children and take care of your home with peace of mind. Having a partner who meets your needs in a relationship is the basis of contentment in your relationship.

3. Look in the Right Places

Romantic lovers with eiffel tower

Everyone has heard the phrase “Looking for love in all the wrong places”. Well you want to make sure you’re looking for love in all the right places. Join interest groups such as bird watching or book clubs. There are lots of activities that bring people together that are perfect places to meet new friends and lovers. You can meet people from online dating sites or join online communities and meet new people this way as well. You can check your local newspaper or magazine for a list of great places where people are getting together. You can take a cooking course for example, learn a new skill and meet new potential mates along the way! There are as many ways to meet new people as your imagination can take you. Stay open to new ideas and be ready.

4. Make Sure You Meet Each Other Halfway

Couple Enjoying Picnic On Cliffs By Sea

Relationships are not one sided affairs. It takes two to tango! And you have to remember you’ll have to negotiate everything from the start including seeing each other. You’ll need to compromise on some things from time to time. Some couples have different tastes in movies . He likes action adventure and she likes art house , relationship driven movies. They compromise by having every other movie they watch be one he likes or she likes. This way they get the companionship they love while going to the movies and the opportunity to explore movies they wouldn’t see otherwise. Meeting each other halfway is a building block of any great relationship. And it’s not just movie decisions. It could be where to live, schools to send children to or other decisions that require both partners to meet each halfway.

5. Keep Your Standards Up

Couple touching with heads before kissing

While it’s important to make compromises and meet each other halfway sometimes, your relationship shouldn’t be so many compromises that you don’t enjoy the relationship. Keeping your standards up will help you keep your chin up in this situation and be proud of yourself and your partner. Meeting at interest groups is often great since you can get insight into the person on an objective basis before any relationship has ever begun. Before one famous couple married, she worked for him. She was able to rise to head her own division at this company. He was able to see all the great qualities she possessed before starting any relationship. Now the two of them are married and coworkers in one of the world’s largest charitable organizations. I’m sure each partner in this case had mutual respect for each other as coworkers. Each partner has a sense of satisfaction in their choice of mate based on work ethic and productivity based on respect. Keeping your standards up helps you in the long run enjoy a more satisfying relationship.

These tips are a few that will get you on your way to a great and satisfying relationship. Seeing yourself in a great relationship is where it starts. There are lots of great places to meet that special someone including free online dating sites. Following these simple steps will lead you to your soulmate and true happiness that you’ve chosen wisely.

Star Couples with Major Age Gaps!

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Age is just a number, especially in Hollywood. We’ve rounded up our favorite celebrity couples who have serious age gaps. But, really, when you love someone who cares how old they are!

Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly

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This amazing couple meet back in 2000 and their 12 year age gap doesn’t mean a thing! Megan Mullaly (who is older) and Nick Offerman have two dogs, a wonderful marriage and they played one of our favorite onscreen duos as well. Megan and Nick played Tammy and Ron on the hit TV show Parks and Recreation. These two lovebirds may win the award for funniest couple ever!

Jay Z and Beyonce

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Talk about a power couple! Jay-Z is 12 years older than his phenomenal wife Beyonce. The two met when Beyonce was only 18 years old. The singing duo are now totally in love, but it was not love at first sight. Beyonce was “not impressed” by Jay-Z’s rapper status when they first met. Lucky for us, Jay-Z didn’t give up and they two now have a beautiful daughter, Blue Ivy, together. As well as the big announcement they are having twins!

Related: Cinderella Vs. Beyonce: What Would They Do If He’s Still Friends with His Ex?

Hugh Jackman and Deborra Lee-Furness

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Austrialian’s hottest leading man (so, so hot) met his 13-years-older wife, Deborra Lee-Furness when he was only 26 years old. Today, the red-hot couple has two kids (who they adopted) and will be married 21 happy years this April! Seriously, these two are so cute. Hugh is totally in love with his wife… he even admitted that he calls her 10 times a day!

Related: Hollywood’s Super Hot Heroes

Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer

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True Blood costars, Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer (who are 13 years apart) get to see each other every day. Clearly it isn’t always a bad idea to date a coworker! Before their auditions in 2008 for the hit TV show True Blood, the couple met in the hotel-and it was love at first sight! The vampire couple (well, Stephen plays a vampire on TV) are married with a set of boy-girl twins. This famous couple is one of our absolute favorites.

Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves

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They met at a bar? Yes, it’s true. Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey met his wife at a bar in Hollywood. Matthew was hanging out with his BFF at the time, Lance Armstrong, when he spotted the Brazilian model. Six years later, the couple got hitched in Texas. The duo, who have a 14 year age gap, even had fancy tents for their guests to stay in. In addition to their amazing dynamic as a couple, they are now parents to three totally-adorable kids named Levi, Vida and Livingston.

Related: Dating After 40: The Hollywood Edition

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi

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Ellen DeGeneres has always been the type of person to help someone else out. When she first met Portia De Rossi (who is 15 years younger than Ellen) she was going through the roughest time of her life. Ellen stuck by her side and Portia confesses that having Ellen made her more confident than she’s ever been – aw! The blonde duo wed in 2008 and have tons of pets together.

Related: Ellen DeGeneres–Just Keep Swimming

David Schwimmer and Zoe Buckman

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Former Friends actor David Schwimmer met his lady-love Zoe Buckman at a restaurant in London. Zoe was his waitress! Despite their 19-year age gap, the two have an amazing life together. In 2010, they got married and in 2011 they had a baby. What a fairy tale romance… meeting a celebrity at a restaurant!

Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart

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This couple might not have the largest age gap, but they are pretty close. Harrison Ford (who is 74 years old and still handsome) first talked to his wife Calista Flockhart (who is 22 years younger then him) at the 2002 Golden Globes. Calista had just adopted her son, Liam when the famous couple first met — and Harrison jumped right into a father role. What an amazing man!

Related: Top 10 Horror Romance Movies

Patrick Stewart and Sunny Ozell

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This couple takes the age gap cake (if there was such a thing). Legendary Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart married his 38-year-younger love Sunny Ozell in 2013. The lovebirds met when Patrick was in New York for work (Sunny is a New York native). The best part of the couple’s wedding? Patrick’s BFF, Sir Ian McKellen, officiated the ceremony. So sweet!

Why do Humans Flirt?

Shy woman and man sitting on sofa. First date.

We have all seen those Animal Planet or David Attenborough shows that explain why animals of all shapes and sizes flirt, be it a bird of paradise doing a little dance or a rhino showing off how big and buff he is. But, the human – the wisest and most sophisticated (debatable in some cases) of all creatures, is very rarely featured on nature shows in the midst of the mating ritual, also known as flirting. So why do humans flirt? Is there more to it than just trying to attract a mate?

 

With the fear of rejection ever present and the chance that the chat up line you have prepared wont land – there must be a bigger reason we put ourselves through the flirting minefield than just for the chance of someone noticing up, or giving us their phone numbers.

 

Well, philosopher Aristotle believed that all communication was goal-orientated, so the same can be argued about flirting. We humans flirt, because we have certain aims and goals we wish to achieve. So what could these goals be?

 

Relational Motive - When driven by relational motives the aim is to alter the closeness of their relationship, be it to move a friendship into a romantic relationship, or something causal to something more serious.

 

Fun Motive - Sometimes there are no ulterior motives to flirting, we simply do it because it is fun and enjoyable. There is no hope for romance being the flirtation, just the chance to be playful is enough.

 

Exploring Motive - Flirting can serve as a method to explore how someone feels about us; do they flirt back and have little giggles, or do they throw a drink in our face and inform security? Flirting is a way we can find this out, without having to do the humiliating thing and actually asking them.

 

Esteem Motive - Flirting is a good way to build and reinforce self-esteem.Put simply it can make us feel good about ourselves, especially when it is reciprocated – there doesn’t need to be any real romantic intentions, it may be just a way to put a spring in our steps.

 

Instrumental Motive - We may flirt because we have a goal we want to achieve that doesn’t involve romance. Maybe we want someone to do us a favour or grant us preferential treatment or maybe even buy us a drink. The motives behind flirting aren’t always genuine interest, it could be a simple method of manipulation – not really fair, but which of us hasn’t done this at some point.

 

Sexual Motive - It is probably pretty obvious that flirting can sometimes be driven by physical attraction and wanting to have sex with the receiver of your chat up lines. There is a basic human need to reproduce, that’s evolution for you.

 

So, which of these flirting motives do you use most often?

A Seductive Menu that will Leave Him Weak at the Knees

Portrait of young couple kissing at home and eating popcorn

You’ve done the legwork, you’ve flirted and you’ve finally convinced him to pop around for a home-cooked dinner. You don’t feel that your mom’s recipe for ‘macaroni and cheese’ will do the trick, so you plan to prepare something that is sure to bowl him over. However, you have no idea what it is that you want to cook…

He fell for your beautiful, soft skin, the way you laugh and the way in which you tuck your hair behind your ears. You loved the way he looked at you and how he gently held your hand. You’ve moved past the giddiness of a first date and would like to do something special, for just the two of you. You’ve decided on a romantic dinner that is rich in flavor, but light enough to ensure that there is plenty of time for meaningful conversation, dancing in the moonlight and maybe even a dizzy make-out session on your sofa. If you’re still searching for meal ideas, look no further! Here are a few that you’re both bound to love:

Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail with Bruschetta

Two glasses of champagne with pomegranate seedsSimple to prepare, light and refreshing, pomegranate champagne cocktails only require three ingredients – semisweet champagne, pomegranate cordial/syrup and pomegranate seeds. Paired with homemade bruschetta that is smeared thick with cream cheese and some roasted tomatoes, this finger-food feast is sure to get his appetite going. Be sure to toast the bruschetta in a pan with some olive oil before layering on your chosen toppings. Perhaps you could lay out two or three toppings and encourage him to make up a slice for you? The opportunities to make romantic advances and endless!

Lemon and Roast Caper Tuna Carpaccio

Tuna CarpaccioLight enough to leave you feeling comfortable yet satisfied, this idea for a lemon and roast tuna carpaccio is ideal for an evening when you want to impress. Search for recipes that are simple enough to prepare at home, and be sure that your chosen cut of fish is finely sliced before you even leave the grocery store. You can prepare and plate this course before you start to get ready, popping it in the fridge to ensure that it remains fresh.

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberries & Vanilla Cream

Homemade Chocolate Dipped StrawberriesChocolate covered strawberries – the ultimate romantic dessert which you can either buy or prepare at home. If you do choose to prepare these babies in your own kitchen, be sure to do so the day of your dinner date to avoid the chocolate getting too tough and the strawberries from going soggy. Whip up a small dish of vanilla cream and you’ve got yourself the perfect gateway to absolute delight!

Once you’ve prepared the dinner and set the table, be sure to run a warm bath in which you can soak. Make use of a fragrant beauty bar to cleanse and soften your skin. When choosing your skin care products, be sure to select a delicately fragranced beauty soap that will leave a delicious, lingering scent on your body. Between you and the tasty food, your man won’t know what hit him!

I’m 22, He’s 64–And We’re Crazy In Love!

Mature man with young woman smiling at each other

Don’t judge us before you read this!

It was six a.m., and my regular crowd was keeping me hopping. That was good news, I reflected. I’d owned the little coffee shop for almost three years, and it had served me well. My customers seemed to like the food and the style of my shop. We treated all of our customers special and didn’t rush them through their meals. Most folks appreciated that, and I appreciated their business.

Ever since I’d opened I had tried to develop a rapport with each person. I’d try to find something we had in common, whether it be books or movies or information in the news. I genuinely looked forward to keeping up our running conversations over weeks and months.

But no one person or one day mattered to me as much as Bill and Friday mornings. Every Friday, Bill would arrive early to have coffee and biscuits with his friends. He’d stay late and sip iced tea with me while I took my break. I grew to look forward to our visits. I felt we had a lot in common, and we shared the same wry sense of humor.

Every once in a while, Bill would bring me a box of chocolates or a new magazine, or some such nonsense. Once he even brought me a bouquet of flowers because the Winn-Dixie was having a sale. I knew he’d meant nothing by those gestures, though they meant the world to me. I treasured every bit of my relationship with him.

And I enjoyed our conversations the best. He made me laugh and had a wealth of history in his life that I never tired of hearing about. He flirted gently, mainly just teasing me with his twinkling blue eyes. Once he gently clasped my hand when I was sick. With a concerned gaze, he told me everyone in town could fix their own breakfast for once, that I needed to get home.

I found Bill to be one of the most attractive and charismatic men I’d ever met—and I’d met a lot of great guys during college and in the restaurant. Our only problem was that he was an older man . . . a much older man—as in, forty-one years older. He was sixty-three to my twenty-two. He was married the year I was born. He was old enough to be my grandfather.

And I was in love with him.

I glanced at the clock. Seven a.m. Any minute now the regular early morning crowd would be taking off, and I’d take my break with Bill. As I watched the group of four men depart, I waved to each one, then poured myself a cool glass of sweet tea and wandered over.

“How are you today?” I asked. “Anything new?”

He smiled. “Nope. Though I’d better get moving soon, if you know what I mean.”

His comment took me by surprise. “What? It’s only seven. You always stay until eight or nine.”

He rolled his coffee cup between his large, wide palms. “I know that, but to tell you the truth, I’ve been kind of wondering about my being here so much.”

I scanned his face again. Something was definitely different. “Bill, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Becca.”

“Then why are you talking like this?” I asked with more than a touch of fear in my voice. “What happened?”

To my surprise, a faint blush rose up his neck and cheeks. “Nothing you need to worry about, Becca. It’s just nonsense about me being here so much.”

On the contrary, I didn’t think he came around often enough. “But you practically only come in on Fridays.”

“I think you and I both know I’ve been here a little bit more than that. Shoot—last week alone, I was here on Wednesday for dinner and Saturday for lunch.”

That didn‘t sound like too much! “A guy has to eat.”

“There are other places, Becca.”

“I know that, but I also know that other people eat here just as often. And I honestly do appreciate everyone’s business.”

Bill took a fortifying sip of coffee and met my gaze. “I’m going to be honest with you, even though it’s hard to say. Becca, honey, if you want to know the flat-out truth . . . I don’t always come in just for food. I come in to see you.”

That made me happy! Really happy. “I like seeing you, too.”

“I’m afraid there are people who don’t see our relationship as innocent as it is. Matter of fact, I’m thinking that some people have turned our friendship into something kind of ugly and twisted.” He laughed hollowly. “People are saying that we’re having an affair. Can you imagine?”

Oh, yes, I could! But I knew I couldn’t say such a thing to Bill, so I scooted a little closer to him and decided to do my best to tell him how I felt.

First, I quickly scanned the rest of the restaurant. Kendra was looking at us strangely, but she was taking care of the two tables in the front. I knew I was going to have to go help her take care of the second morning wave in a few minutes.

“I don’t care that people are talking about us, Bill. I really don’t. They just need something else to occupy their minds.”

“Becca—”

I held up my index finger and daringly pressed it against his lips to silent him. “To be honest, when you come in, my nerves awaken and my whole body feels excited. I do like you, Bill. I like you more than just as a friend.” I leaned forward and met his startled gaze head-on. “I like you the way a woman likes a man.”

Poor Bill went white and looked like he was about to fall off his chair. “You don’t know what you’re saying,” he whispered.

“I think I do. And I think you’ve felt the same way.”

“It doesn’t matter whether I have or haven’t,” he sputtered. “Becca, I’m sixty-three years old!”

I couldn’t help but smile. “I know that. I bought you a puzzle for your last birthday. Don’t you recall?”

His shoulders slumped. “That was you giving a sweet gift to an old man.”

“Don’t you remember what I said on the card?”

He looked away, telling me in every way that he did, indeed, recall my words.

“I wrote that all you had to do,” I reminded him, “was name the date and I’d work on that puzzle with you . . . by your side.”

Bill stared at me silently for a good long while. I knew he was desperately trying to think of something, anything, that would sound reasonable to me but not reveal his true feelings. He had no idea, however, how much his piercing blue eyes revealed of his soul.

“At this time in my life, no one is going to pay me much mind. But you—you’re a young girl. A relationship with me, even an overly friendly one, could damage your reputation for years.”

He cleared his throat. “Right now, you might not care about that. Right now, you might be thinking of only today. But I’ve lived a long life, and I’m here to tell you that what you’re suggesting is something that you would regret for years and years to come.”

“I’m not a girl, Bill. I’m a woman, and I know what I want.” Feeling brazen, I leaned forward, close enough that the tips of my breasts skimmed the opening of his jacket. A smoky haze filled Bill’s blue eyes. Instinctively I knew he was just as aware of my body as I was his.

That slight connection sent yet another round of shock waves through me. I felt breathless and exhilarated. “And, Bill, here’s something else to think about: I don’t need you now or tomorrow. I’m willing to wait for you. Until you want me in your life badly enough that you don’t want to wait anymore, either.”

Bill pulled back, breaking our tenuous contact. “I’m going to go,” he whispered.

“See you tomorrow?”

“I don’t know.”

“You can’t hide from what we feel, Bill,” I said with far more attitude than I felt. “It will still be there, just waiting for us to bring it out in the open.”

And with that, I turned around and went back to the counter, keeping my face down so as not to meet anyone else’s gaze. I suddenly felt embarrassed, and more than a little mortified at what I’d just done.

Because I had just realized that I’d probably not only ruined any chance I might have had of being with the man I loved, but now we might not even be friends!

What had I done?

I worked my shift and went home to my lonely apartment on the second floor of an old duplex in town. I usually found it quite cozy; I’d decorated it with shades of blue and green and had a number of soft quilts scattered around for added comfort. But to my eye, just then, my place only seemed rather sad and neglected.

Would I ever be at a place in my life when I actually had time to fuss with my things? To rearrange furniture, or think about painting a wall? It sure didn’t seem like it was in my future anytime soon. All I ever did was go to work, attend church, run errands on my day off, and do an occasional puzzle when time allowed.

Some days I just felt like I went through the motions, never having time to stop and appreciate my life or my accomplishments. With a sigh, I plopped on the couch and tried to read a romance novel I’d picked up at the store.

Days passed, and Bill didn’t show up at the diner. Several of his friends did, though, and they pointedly cast speculative looks at me when I served them their coffee and breakfasts. It was all I could do to keep a lighthearted smile on my face and act like I didn’t have a care in the world. In truth, I was worried sick.

a blonde waitress delivers a meal to her customersSuddenly I wondered if perhaps Bill hated me now. Or maybe he’d made a joke to his friends about my “puppy love,” and they were all laughing about me behind my back. I really couldn’t think of another reason he wouldn’t visit the diner three days in a row. To the best of my knowledge, that had never happened before.

But what if he was sick? I knew he didn’t have family in town; that was one of the things we’d talked about, how we were alone in New London, Texas. What if he was home sick, all by himself, and was too proud to call for help?

I realized I’d have to swallow my own pride to ask the men I was serving coffee about Bill. So what if they laughed at me?

With a determined step, I approached Bill’s friends. “Jim, Mr. Conner? Do any of you know where Bill is?”

All talk at the table ceased. It felt like the whole diner had suddenly become silent. But, to my surprise, neither Jim nor Mr. Conner started grinning mischievously, and none of the men cracked a joke or made light of my inquiry. Instead they each looked at me with concern and genuine affection.

“Come sit a spell with us, Becca,” Jim offered.

Hesitantly, I slid next to Mr. Conner. I didn’t say a word; I didn’t have any idea what they were thinking, and I couldn’t forget that, no matter what happened between Bill and me, I would still see them all on a daily basis. I couldn’t completely forget about the rest of the world.

Finally, Mr. Conner spoke. “Lately, quite a few people have noticed you and Bill visiting quite a bit.” His two bushy eyebrows rose slightly. “And people have been saying it was real friendly-like.”

That, I could answer. “I have been sitting with him as much as possible. We have a lot in common.”

That won a few chuckles. “Is that right?” Mr. G. asked me from the other corner of the booth.

“We both like to read mysteries and do puzzles. Neither of us have family here. I like to cook, he likes to garden.” I shrugged. “I’d say we actually do have quite a lot in common. Wouldn’t you?”

The men looked uncomfortable.

“Becca, Bill doesn’t know what to think of this attention,” Mr. Connor said.

“I told him what I thought of it in a private conversation a few days ago.”

“Bill didn’t share your exact words, but I will tell you that whatever you said did catch him off guard.”

I felt chagrined. “Mr. Conner, I know this is a strange conversation, but what if I told you that I like this man in a romantic way?”

“I’d say you were a fool.”

“What if I said that Bill makes me smile? That I feel comfortable with him?”

“Plenty of men your own age for that,” he retorted. He shared a smug look with his buddies.

I’d had enough. I slid out of the booth and smiled grimly at the quartet of men. I knew they cared about Bill and didn’t want to embarrass him. They cared about me, too—but now that I had admitted my feelings, I didn’t see any reason to hold back any longer.

“Listen, most guys my age don’t interest me. Sure, their bodies may be younger, but that isn’t what attracts me to a man. I want to be with a guy who isn’t trying to figure himself out, who doesn’t have to work sixty hours a week to prove to some middle manager that he’s worth a promotion. I want someone who wants to hear what I have to say and not just tell me his views. Bill does that. We’re close.”

The men looked stunned. Finally, Jim narrowed his eyes at me. “This isn’t some flighty kind of thing, is it?”

“No, sir, it’s not.” I set my hands on my hips. “I don’t know if anything will ever become of Bill and me. Who knows, maybe we’re just destined to be friends. Maybe he looks at me and just sees a child.

“But I know how I feel when I look at him, and I think it’s worth my time to at least investigate my feelings a bit. I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Mr. Conner ran his fingers through his salt and pepper hair. “Do you mind if I share some of this with Bill?”

“It depends.”

He smiled at my spunk. “On what?”

“On what you intend to do with this information,” I said audaciously.

He laughed. “I think I’m going to use it to remind Bill that he’s still got a lot of living to do.”

“Well, in that case, I think you’d better share as much of this conversation with him as you possibly can!” I quipped.

The men chuckled again. I wandered back to the counter, wondering if I had just messed everything up for good. What if Bill now avoided me like the plague? I hated to think that might happen.

I went home from my shift exhausted, took a short nap, then awoke when the doorbell rang. Hurriedly, I smoothed back my long blonde hair just before I unlocked the door.

Right in front of me stood Bill!

“Becca.”

“Hey,” I said, at a complete loss of words.

He stepped forward, then pulled out the puzzle I’d given him, all those months ago. “May I come in?”

I stepped back and watched him gingerly step into my place. Then, as I closed the door, I realized that he had every reason to be wary; we were both on unfamiliar ground.

But the instant I was alone with him I became aware of his tangy, citrus-scented cologne. He was such a handsome man to me; he reminded me a lot of John Wayne. A large, solid male, with piercing eyes and a slow, steady grin. To think that he might even possibly be interested in me the way that I was interested in him gave me chills.

“Would you like to sit down?” I motioned toward my sofa and loveseat. “Coffee? Tea?”

He shook his head. “You don’t have to serve me here, Becca.”

“I know I don’t have to, but you’re a guest in my home. Of course I’d like to serve you. Now, may I get you anything?”

“Just yourself.”

Never before had Bill tried to bridge the fragile gap that separated us. Now that he was testing the chasm, I felt like I needed to hold on with all my might.

He sat down on the edge of the couch next to me. “I have to tell you, I haven’t worried about so much in years.” He scratched his head absently. “Even back when I owned the hardware store, I can’t recall staying up so many nights.”

I didn’t know whether to apologize or grin like crazy. Instead I tried to act casual, though I probably failed at that, too. “I’m sorry if I’ve caused you a lot of trouble, Bill. That certainly was never my intention.”

“I know that.” His eyes met mine. “You have nothing to worry about. It’s my feelings that have been a little crazy, I’m afraid.”

“What have you been feeling?”

“Like a silly old man, if you want to know the truth.” His eyes crinkled as his grin widened. “I keep waiting for someone to jump out of a corner and call me an old fool.”

My heart warmed. “There’s no one here but me, I promise.”

And?”

“And the last thing in the world I’m going to tell you is that you’re a silly old fool.”

Our sincerity made us both blush. Frantic to find some common ground, I gestured toward the puzzle on the coffee table. “What did you bring?”

“The puzzle you gave me. I thought maybe we could work on it together, as you suggested.”

“Here?”

“Yeah. Where I live . . . where I live, I’m afraid your visit would be a major attraction.”

I forced myself to step back and see this relationship from his perspective. There was a very real possibility that my campaign to become involved with Bill had embarrassed him terribly.

“I don’t know what you’re thinking,” I said softly. “I don’t know how you feel about me.”

“Becca, I fought in a war; I owned my own business; I was married for thirty years. I also have two children and one grandson. I’ve never felt as uncertain as I do right now. I have no idea how I feel.”

None of that sounded good. I’d practically ruined his life! I needed to let him go before I ruined our friendship completely. “Oh. Well, then—”

“But I know that I like being with you. You’re fun and you’ve got a good heart. And . . . that you’re just about the prettiest thing I’ve seen in a long, long while.”

I caught my breath. “Thank you.”

“I don’t understand why you’re not with a younger man,” he continued, his blue gaze warming. “But, right now, at this time, I’m not going to care. Right now, right this minute, I’m going to take what you’re offering and hang on tight. I’m not dead yet.”

His admission, given so stark and raw, made me laugh. That’s why I liked Bill so much. Slowly, I held my hand out to him. “No, you’re not, Bill. Not by a long shot.”

As our fingers touched, I swear I felt a tiny little spark ignite between the two of us. Suddenly, I felt alive and vibrant. When his time-worn, rough fingers caressed my own, the touch felt more personal and intimate than the craziest night of sex, because we were baring our souls, not our clothes. And our souls were far, far more personal.

I served us some wine and we sat at my kitchen table and worked on the puzzle. We talked about his kids and my job. I told him about growing up as an only child. He told me about Brenda, his sweet first wife, and her battle with cancer.

Before we knew it, it was midnight. Bill stood up reluctantly. “I better get going. If I don’t hurry home, someone’s certain to send out a search party for me.”

“All right. Thank you for coming over. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.”

Bill clasped my hand again and squeezed it. “You don’t need to tell me. I already know.”

I walked him to the door, my stomach feeling as fluttery as a high school girl’s. My hand was still entwined in Bill’s, and I felt as romantic and cherished as if he had enfolded me in his arms and told me I was the world to him.

And, then, all of the sudden, he did pull me into his arms. He pressed his lips to mine, and as I tasted his minty breath and reveled in our kiss, his other hand brushed back my hair from my neck. I felt treasured and special, so many feelings I’d been waiting a lifetime to experience.

“That was nice,” he said when we broke apart after a few minutes.

“You sound surprised,” I teased.

“Not surprised. Bemused might be more like it.” He met my steady gaze. “I never thought I’d feel this way about another woman. I thought Brenda was going to be it for me.”

“I never thought I’d ever feel this way about anyone,” I confessed. “I thought I’d never meet a man who I wanted to be so close to.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Whatever you want, Bill. If you don’t want anyone to know about the two of us for a while, I guess I can deal with that.”

“That hardly sounds fair.”

It wasn’t. I wanted to yell out to the whole town of New London that Bill had just wrapped me up in his arms and kissed me senseless. But I also knew we had a lot of obstacles to overcome before we ever did more than work on puzzles and kiss goodnight.

“I waited a long time to tell you my feelings,” I finally said. “I can wait a little longer.”

“My kids, even though they’re not nearby . . . well, I don’t know what they’re going to say.”

I knew his children were older than me. “Maybe you won’t have to tell them a thing for a while,” I suggested softly.

Bill looked skeptical. “I’ll think about it. And Becca?”

“Yes?”

“I had a great time tonight.”

“So did I.”

I softly closed the door and practically waltzed into my bedroom. Bill had actually paid me a visit tonight—and kissed me passionately! Wonders never ceased.

The next few days were chaotic and interesting, to say the least. I was on the receiving end of more than a few curious glances and whispered comments.

Bill did come into the diner, but he blushed when we so much as exchanged glances, so I kept my distance. As time progressed I began to feel I’d embellished our night to outlandish proportions. Maybe I had just thought he cared more for me than he actually did.

Maybe I had just imagined that he had been moved by that kiss. I made myself face the almost certain truth: Bill had probably looked at himself in the light of day and had decided that nothing was worth the trouble I’d bring into his life.

I resolved to keep a sunny smile on my face, but it was hard because I felt like crying. What was I going to do without him?

And then, finally, after four days of not knowing what to do, Bill stopped by during a slow period at work. His eyes were twinkling and he was smiling.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“I’ve been talking to my son and daughter about you. And Brenda over at the cemetery.”

I steeled myself for his rejection. “Oh.”

“I told my kids that I’ve done everything that was expected of me. Now I want to do something for me.” He shrugged. “I told them that at my age, I thought I had that right.”

I still wasn’t really following him. “Am I . . . that something?”

“You definitely are,” he retorted with a chuckle. “And, like a hen at a farm, I went and talked about you to my buddies, as well.”

“No wonder I’ve been getting such strange looks!”

“I don’t think they were strange looks, because my buddies told me the same exact thing that my kids did.”

“And what was that?”

“To follow my heart. Again.”

Hope swept through me. “Really?”

He chuckled. “Really. I’m sorry I’ve been such a fool. I should have done this in the first place, without ever asking my kids or my friends for permission.”

“Done what?”

“This.” He pulled me close to him, right there in the middle of my diner. “And this,” he murmured, right before he kissed me.

“And this,” he finally said as he lifted his lips from mine. “I like you a lot, Becca. Will you be my girl?”

Tears came to my eyes. “There isn’t anything I’d rather be,” I murmured. “I’d love to be your girl. Today and always.”

And that is how I fell in love with a man old enough to be my grandfather. And just in case you’re wondering what happened to us, we just celebrated our first anniversary last night. Things between Bill and I are just absolutely wonderful.

Thank goodness we both were brave enough to share our feelings one day, so long ago. Thank goodness we looked in our hearts to find out what we had in common . . . rather than focus on our dates of birth.

Make Him Fall For You In 10 Easy Steps

Couple on steps in rain, man carrying young woman, eyes closed

Sometimes it can be difficult to find that perfect man you’ve always wanted to share your life with. If you’re in love with a man and you want him to have the same feelings, there are things you can do to increase his fascination for you. You should not change your personality just to make a guy you’re attracted to feel comfortable. If you really want to make him fall head over heels, you must try to understand him and his way of being, and use that to your advantage. But keep in mind that the feeling must be mutual. How to make your love life better without getting hurt? These 10 strategies can help.

1. Be attractive

When you’re in the company of the man you love, dress attractive so that you can grab his attention. If you see him smiling or not taking his eyes off of you, you have an advantage. If he sees those around admiring you, it will make him want you even more. Men can be very competitive when it comes to women. Try to make yourself noticed and he will be all yours.

2. Appreciate and respect him

Men are looking for appreciation and respect. When he organizes something special – be it something small or big – let him know that you notice and greatly admire him for his effort. If he sees that his gestures make you happy, he will never stop adoring you and you’ll have everything you ever wanted – love in marriage and in a relationship.

3. Make eye contact

Passionate eye contact can make people fall in love in a second. When you’re talking with him, gaze into his eyes; he’ll know that he caught your attention. It will flatter him for sure and he will desire you with all his being.

4. Soft touches

Girl sitting on boyfriends lap.

If there’s a way to make a man fall in love with you, this is it! Men can’t resist a woman’s soft touch. When you are with him, make simple gestures like hold his hand, hug, or just flip your hand through his hair; let your soft touch persist for a moment and he’ll inevitably be wowed by you. A warm touch can be extremely exciting for the man you love, and you’ll spark a dreamy attraction in no time.

5. Don’t let him see you’re in love

Men love to divide and conquer. They need some time to admit their feelings, but when they do, there’s no way of going back. To make someone fall for you, let them know that you’re attracted to them; but don’t become too clingy – men hate persistent women. Always make him feel uncertain about how serious you are, and let him make the first step into a real relationship.

6. Don’t approve him all the time

A perfect relationship is based on compatibility; this doesn’t mean that you have to accept everything he does or says. Sometimes, a petty disagreement can make him see your strong personality and respect your point of view. Don’t let common relationship problems others have get in the way of your happiness.

7. Have intellectual conversations

Couple on Yacht

Flirty discussions are cute and delightful, and he will adore the fact that he can make you blush. On your romantic dates, connect with him on an intellectual level. Talk with him about career opportunities, aspirations and ambitions, and let him taste the feeling of sheer happiness. Exploring intimacy in relationships is also fundamental to building a strong, unbreakable bond.

8. Showcase your talents

If you want to make a man fall in love with you, surprise him! He certainly likes you for who you are; but to completely impress him, let him know that you have many hidden talents waiting to be discovered. Amaze him with things you like to do – be it dancing, cooking, singing, or any other foolish things you’ve never showed anyone. Give him an opportunity to discover the real you.

9. Be charming

Men can’t resist a charming smile. Be warm, loving and sweet when you’re around him, and he’ll end up adoring you. If you want to win a man over, blush when he compliments you or flirt discreetly by flipping your hair and smiling. If he is attracted to you, he will want to wow you with his sense of humor and epic stories. Don’t forget about communication in relationships; this is key if you want him to commit and be happy.

10. Don’t be offensive

Men don’t like arrogant, proud women. They certainly love a woman who can have an opinion, but if she wants to exude her arrogance and superiority, for sure he’ll refuse to fall in love with her.

Are you ready for a long-lasting relationship? Are you ready for love and marriage? Then you should put yourself out there. Make him fall head over heels with the tips we’ve mentioned above, and you have the highest chances of attaining genuine happiness.

By Sylvia Smith at Never Liked It Anyway

(From Never Liked It Anyway, the number one destination for all things break-ups and bounce-back! It’s the place to buy, sell and tell all things ex! Sell your breakup baggage, tell your story and join the community of rock stars bouncing back better than ever! )

Starstruck Romance

As her Second Acts Dating Service truly takes off, Cynthia Amas discovers that in the heady world of high-end Hollywood romance, with success comes complexity. In this wildly seductive romp through the lush canyons and lavish neighborhoods of Los Angeles, the line between business and pleasure quickly blurs in a dizzying rush of sex and celebrity.

Just as our heroine’s uncanny genius for matching up her growing roster of exclusive love seekers continues to deepen, her own love life reaches a fever pitch.

Things get complicated. And funny. And excruciatingly sensual.

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Reviews:

From Kirkus: An intrepid young matchmaker in Hollywood sparks chemistry with an old flame, an ex-flame and an A-list actor, all while finding love for her clients in this engaging romance. Cynthia Amas has no trouble juggling her new dating service and a slew of fresh clients from among the Hollywood elite. Her best friend, the outspoken Lolita, has her hands full running a dog-grooming business catering to the stars and managing her three dogs of varying sizes and temperaments, who bring her juicy gossip (at least she hears them talking!) Read More

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Dear Second Acts;
I have been seeing a gorgeous guy for a while. He’s a trial lawyer and a good one. He is passionate about his work and about me. There’s really just one problem, but it’s a big, fat, stinky one. He smokes cigars. Now I know there are lots of women who like cigars, or at least pretend to. I know they’re supposed to make a man look powerful and sexy and all that, but I find them unbelievably disgusting. Read More